There are plenty of books on how to start a business and grow it to profitability. These “success guides” usually focus on demographic segmentation, differentiation from competitors, accumulated experience, and other routine business factors.
However, often the experts miss the one aspect of business ownership or management that’s critical to long-term success: trust.
Trust takes time to build, but it can disappear with a single bad experience, one unfortunate phone call, or a rant posted to social media. Years of cooperation can be undone with 140 characters on Twitter. And once trust is broken, it’s always difficult to start building trust again.
Trust is an essential ingredient to business success. Without it, you’re just spinning your wheels.
Trust in Business
Trust is based on expectations. The expectations of employees, clients, customers, vendors and sub-contractors, all of the people who support and add value to your business.
Your employees trust that they’ll be treated fairly and paid on time. Clients trust that you’ll honour business agreements. Vendors and subs trust that there’s no harmful or dishonest fine print in their contracts with you.
The people associated with your business – from the staff on the factory floor to the customers who purchase your products – have expectations of how you’ll treat an issue, problem, or simple question. These expectations develop over time based on the company’s consistent approach to business activity.
Changing the company’s rock-solid response strains expectations of business associates. If your business has always offered a “COMPLETE 100% MONEY-BACK GUARANTEE” but fails to honour that promise, customer expectations of your business change radically. You no longer have a viable relationship built on trust because your business failed to meet expectations.
Consistency in business relationships builds trust. If your company always performs or responds as expected, you build trust. You make deals with a handshake. You and all other parties know what to expect and you deliver to those expectations.
Building Business Trust
It isn’t difficult to build business trust if your company policies are consistent. Here are some suggestions to create trust among those with whom you do business.
Honesty is always the best policy. Your product descriptions are accurate. Your terms of service are transparent and always favour customers, employees, or others in your business realm. You’re true to your word, and a promise is a promise.
Being honest with customers, clients, employees, outsources, and others delivers expected outcomes that serve to increase trust in all business transactions with your company.
Never try to “fool” an employee or client. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Be ethical and compliant to see steady business growth.
Be sincere. If you truly put the needs of clients and customers ahead of your company’s needs, you’ll build trust quickly – even if it costs the business capital. Make it right. Fix it. Do the right thing. Even if you disagree with a client or department head, examine the other side of the debate impartially.
Respect yourself and others. Treat all employees as equals. Okay, you may own the company, but the men and women on staff build your business, and increase its value.
Treat others with respect and they’ll show their gratitude with loyalty and extra effort.
Reliability is another trust builder. If you fail to hit a deadline, trust is lost. If you don’t honour your own company’s terms, you’ll lose trust of key providers or employees, and you may lose customers and clients.
If you say it will be this way, make it this way. Once again, trust is built on expectations. Be reliable, hit your deadlines, deliver the goods on time, and put the interests of others ahead of your own business interests.
Mutual business success builds trust so find common ground that delivers success to your company and your associates. Don’t fight for every benefit. Be flexible and recognize that all parties must achieve success as a result of engaging your company.
Personal integrity is a must to business growth. You can talk a good game but if you don’t follow up and follow through your words ring hollow. In everyday parlance, don’t just “talk the talk, walk the walk” as well. Your word is your bond, and your business is built on your personal integrity and the integrity of your representatives.
Admit to making mistakes and FIX them. No one gets it right every time.
When your company misses an appointment, or delays a payment due last week, contact the payment recipient immediately, explain the mistake, provide a payment date you now you can hit, then hit it.
Admitting mistakes is an essential manifestation of your honesty and integrity.
Find commonality. What do you have in common with a supplier? Do you share the same personal values? Do you respect the way others conduct business with you? Look for common interests and benefits for all parties to maintain higher levels of trust in the workplace.
Finally, demonstrate competence. Clients pay for your competence, your knowledge and experience.
Provide solutions to problems, don’t exacerbate them. Competence is demonstrated through action. Know what’s important to the other parties and respect those needs or wants.
If you’re good at what you do, clients and customers will come to trust you. They’ll be comfortable that you’ll keep your word and make things right, even if you lose money.
There are lots of ways to destroy business relationships founded on trust. One mis-statement can undo years of collaboration, so recognise that trust is a key asset to company growth.